Stay in one place for very long and you will certainly stand out, as Pastor Don Shirk said in the Thursday morning general session of the 2017 GARBC Conference. He summarized the attitude: “Twenty years in one church? Something’s got to be wrong. He must be asleep at the switch or something!” But God does a special work in and through those who stay for the long haul. Pastor Shirk knows something about longevity in ministry, having been pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Batavia, New York, for over 30 years. In the Friday morning session, Shirk explained four marks of a long ministry, found in 2 Timothy 2:10 and 24–26.
The first mark is a commitment to what matters (2:9b–10), because it is easy to get thrown off course when faced with challenges. Pastors must be convinced and driven by certain truths that are significant. One of these is the authority and effectiveness of the Bible. “This Book can do that which no other book in the entire universe can do,” Shirk said.
A second mark of long-haul ministry is owning who you are. No believer has to struggle with the question, Who am I? The Bible tells us: “a servant of the Lord” (2:24a). This realization should result in incredible gratitude. Each Christian has a past, but there was a moment when God rescued each one.
Many disagreements can arise in ministry, so the third mark of ministry longevity is staying above the fray (2:24–25). Quarrel in verse 24 means “to fight with words,” and Christian leaders must avoid quarreling. But beyond that, they must learn how to respond correctly to disagreements. Once again, God’s Word provides the answer: ministers must be “gentle to all,” but also willing to correct those who cause dissension.
A fourth and crucial mark of a long-haul ministry is embracing God’s sovereignty (2:25b–26). A healthy appreciation for God’s sovereignty will make it possible for a believer to hold onto outcomes loosely and to recognize God’s rightful place as Lord.
Pastor Shirk says that as rare as long-haul leadership may be in today’s ministry world, it is worth it.